Top Dems press Idaho on plan to get around ObamaCare rules

Top Dems press Idaho on plan to get around ObamaCare rules

Top congressional Democrats are pressing Idaho on its controversial plan to circumvent certain ObamaCare requirements.

The top four Democrats on the congressional committees overseeing health care wrote to Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron on Thursday asking if his moves comply with federal law and requesting a staff briefing on the state’s plans.

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“We strongly oppose efforts that result in higher costs and undermine consumer protections that are guaranteed by federal law that protect women, people with pre-existing conditions, and others facing discrimination in access to health care, and therefore request an explanation of how the Idaho Department of Insurance will regulate insurance plans being sold in the individual market that are not compliant with federal law,” the letter reads. 

The letter is signed by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight House passes measure blocking IRS from revoking churches' tax-exempt status over political activity Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve IRS MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse votes to disavow carbon tax Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production MORE (D-Mass.).

At issue is the Republican governor of Idaho’s move to allow insurers in the state to sell plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements in an effort to allow for cheaper plans. The new plans could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, which is not allowed under ObamaCare, and would not cover all of the health services required for ObamaCare plans.

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Democrats and many experts say the proposal is a clear violation of federal law.

Democrats say Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has a responsibility to step in to enforce the law. Azar has declined to say whether he plans to take action to block the move, indicating that he is waiting to see if one of the new health insurance plans is approved by the state.

The four Democratic lawmakers previously wrote to Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to press them about Idaho’s plans.

On Thursday, the Democrats released a response from Verma, dated Feb. 9, which did not say either way whether she would take action to stop Idaho’s move, which was announced in a bulletin from the state insurance department.

“At this time, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) does not have any additional information to share regarding this bulletin,” Verma wrote to Pallone. “We are committed to fulfilling our obligations under the law while continuing to work with states to provide flexibility where possible, and we are happy to keep you informed of any developments.”